A thousand years older than Stonehenge, and 500 years older than the Pyramids of Giza, Newgrange is an ancient monument that consists of approximately 200,000 tons of rock and other materials. It is 85 meters (279 ft) wide at its widest point.
One of the most famous ancient sites in Ireland is Newgrange, a monument built between 3,300-2,900 BC according to carbon 14 tests (Grogan 1991).
This makes it 500 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza of Egypt, and 1,000 years older than Stonehenge (although the first stages of Stonehenge are approximately about the same time as Newgrange). This ancient monument also predates the Mycenaean culture of ancient Greece.
It remained lost during more than 4,000 years due to a decrease of the mound until it was discovered in the XVII century by people who looked construction stones and described it as a cave.
Newgrange was excavated and restored between 1962 and 1975 under the supervision of Professor Michael J O’Kelly, of the Department of Archeology at the University College Cork (O’Kelly 1986).
Most of the stones (200,000 tons of rock) come from the vicinity of the construction, although the granite and quartz stones of the façade were transported from more distant places, probably from Wicklow and Dundalk Bay, respectively.
The true purpose of this ancient monument remains a mystery, although experts believe it was a religious center of some sort.
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Interestingly, Newgrange appears to be astronomically oriented: every year, on the morning of the winter solstice, sunlight penetrates the passage and illuminates the floor of the chamber for 17 minutes.
Some have speculated that the Sun would have had great importance in the religious beliefs of the people who built it, and others have taken the finding as a reference for archaeoastronomic studies in other similar monuments although Newgrange’s alignment is the only one that has been reliably demonstrated and it could be the result of chance.
The entire monument was intricately carved.
Newgrange contains numerous examples of abstract Neolithic rock art carved onto it which provide decoration, although some authors have speculated that their design is more than just art, for researchers have demonstrate a close connection between the ancient site and the sun, specifically the Winter Solstice; the rising sun shines directly along the long passage, illuminating the inner chamber and revealing the carvings inside, notably the triple spiral on the front wall of the chamber.
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The carvings at Newgrange fit into ten categories, five of which are curvilinear (circles, spirals, arcs, serpentiform and dot-in-circles) and the other five of which are rectilinear (chevrons, lozenges, radials, parallel lines, and offsets).
They are also marked by wide differences in style, the skill-level that would have been needed to produce them, and on how deeply carved they are.
Newgrange Co.Meath on the Winter Solstice 2017
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As for the exact purpose of the monument, several authors believe Newgrange may have been centered on astronomy, engineering, geometry, and mythology associated with the Boyne monuments.
Prehistoric rock art on one of the kerb-stones surrounding the great Neolithic passage tomb at Newgrange, Co. Meath Photo: Regan Buker (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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Researchers speculate that the monument was an important astronomical center and that the sun formed a crucial part of the religious beliefs of the Neolithic people who built it.